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Shop Local: Winemaker Gets Foothold at Walmart

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio – Marisa Sergi, founder and CEO of RedHead Brands LLC, 6597 Center Road, Lowellville, is a new entrepreneur who is taking her product to the world’s largest retailer.

Walmart, which selected RedHead as part of its Investing in American Jobs Initiative, began stocking Sergi’s RedHead wines about a month ago in 40 of its stores in Ohio.

The list of stores and retail chains where RedHead is sold also includes Giant Eagle, Rulli Brothers and Sparkle. “Walmart’s a great opportunity but I don’t want to completely neglect my other customers, too,” Sergi says.

A third-generation winemaker who began producing RedHead commercially only last year, Sergi says that as a new brand breaking into retail locations she encountered many challenges, one being competing for shelf space and positioning her wine against regional and national brands.

“The biggest challenge was convincing certain stores that we should deserve a chance,” she says.

As sales of RedHead grew, she took those results to other retailers to convince them to give her an opportunity.

Customers can taste the quality of RedHead’s Red and Rosé blends, Sergi says. While there’s little innovation in the wine industry, she describes RedHead as “new and unique.”

Response to her wines is positive so far, she reports, with retailers continuing to reorder.

Sergi doesn’t have any numbers on Walmart sales yet because the product has been in stores only a few weeks, but she reports she is on track to produce 5,000 cases of wine this year.

“Things are rolling. The challenge is to get as many people aware of your product as possible,” she says. “As a startup trying to strategically invest every cent, I’m trying to get as creative as possible.”

Although she relies heavily on social media, she does a lot of traditional marketing, she says. She also holds as many tasting events as possible to raise awareness of her wines.

In addition to the 40 stores in Ohio, Sergi is preparing to go into Walmart stores in Michigan the first or second quarter of 2018.

“I plan on pitching to sell my product in Pennsylvania, too,” she says. “Everything takes three to four times longer than you hope, so I’m patient. I want to make sure I’m being the most effective partner as possible to all my retail outlets.”

Pictured: Marisa Sergi, founder and CEO of RedHead Brands LLC.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.